COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019)

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually cause only mild respiratory diseases, such as the common cold. SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, is a more serious strain of coronavirus that spreads and infects people easily. Most children who have had COVID-19 have not gotten very sick.

How COVID-19 is Spread to Others

The virus that causes COVID-19 can pass from person to person through small droplets that are breathed, coughed, or sneezed into the air by an infected person. Most people become infected after breathing in this air. Infection may also occur after touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands after touching a surface with the virus. 

Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough 
  • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches

Symptoms range from mild to severe. Some infected children may have no symptoms.
Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

How to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

  • Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Everyone who can get the vaccination should stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth when:
    • You are inside public spaces in areas where the COVID-19 infection rate is high, whether you are vaccinated or not.
    • You are inside public spaces in areas were the COVID-19 infection rate is medium if:
      • You are at increased risk for severe illness.
      • You live or spend time with someone at higher risk.
  • People who SHOULD NOT WEAR a mask include:
    • Children under the age of 2
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing
    • Anyone who is unconscious, cannot move, or cannot remove the mask without help
    • *For more information about masks, see the CDC.gov website.
  • Monitor your health every day for COVID-19 symptoms. If you are sick, stay away from others. Get tested for COVID-19 to keep from spreading it to others.
  • Everyone must wash their hands often. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used.
  • Everyone must cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough or sneeze into the elbow. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Wash hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after discarding used tissues.
  • Clean all frequently touched surfaces regularly with a household disinfecting spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. These include doorknobs, light switches, faucets, toilet handles, and other hard surfaces that are also touched by members of your household.

What to Expect if Your Child Needs to be Tested for COVID-19

  • If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, there are many viral test options:
    • Lab tests and rapid point-of-care tests – Now available with many health care providers. If the health care provider feels testing for COVID-19 is needed, a nose swab will be done. With this test, a cotton-tipped swab is wiped inside of the nose. Some children may have a small amount of bleeding from the nose after this test.
    • At-home tests – These are available for older children. It is very important to follow all manufacturer instructions to make sure you get an accurate result. For more information, including how to order free tests, please refer to the CDC website.  

Caring for Your Child at Home Until Test Results are Known

  • If your child has been tested for COVID-19 because they have signs and symptoms, for the safety of your family, start the practices listed below until you get the results:
    • Start home isolation. Keep your child at home, except to get medical care. Have your child avoid large group gatherings, including public areas and public transportation. Children and adolescents should not go to school or work until you have been told it is safe to do so.
    • Keep your child away from other members of your household as much as possible. If you can, have your child stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom.
    • Avoid close face-to-face contact as much as possible.
    • Practice good hand hygiene and cough habits, such as covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your face.
    • Do not let your child share household items, such as dishes, utensils, towels, and bedding until they have been washed well with soap and water after each use.
    • Avoid unnecessary visitors in your home.
    • Have your child avoid contact with pets and other animals. COVID-19 may spread from people to animals during close contact. 

If Your Child is Positive for COVID-19

  • Please refer to the CDC isolation guidelines at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html for the most up-to-date information about isolation. The state or local health department may or may not contact you to tell you when you can return to work or school or when normal activity can resume.
  • Continue with all the practices listed above to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Follow all recommendations from your child’s health care provider.

How COVID-19 is Treated

  • Most children can get better at home with the care of a parent or caregiver. Medicine may be prescribed for older children and adults at high risk of severe illness. Contact your doctor or health care provider with any questions.
  • Have your child to drink plenty of age-appropriate fluids.
  • Have your child to rest often.
  • Never give your child products containing ASPIRIN, unless told by a doctor.
  • You may give fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), as needed. Before taking ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®), check with your doctor or health care provider to make sure it is okay. FOLLOW ALL PACKAGE DOSING INSTRUCTIONS.
  • Do NOT ignore symptoms that get worse. 

When to Call the Doctor or Seek Medical Care

Call a doctor or health care provider if your child has:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Breathing that is very fast
  • Symptoms that get worse

When to Call 911

Call 911 if your child has:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sucking in of the skin between the ribs when breathing (retractions)
  • Turning blue around the mouth
  • Breathing very fast
  • Appears very ill

Resources for More COVID-19 Information

  • See the Centers for Disease Control website (https://www.cdc.gov) for the most up to date information about COVID-19. The main page has a link for all COVID-19 topics.
  • The Ohio Department of Health (ODH): (Coronavirus.ohio.gov). ODH provides a phone line you can call with any COVID-19 questions at 1-833-427-5634.

Another resource to answer your questions is the 700 Children’s Blog, which you can find on our website (www.nationwidechildrens.org). Once you are on the main hospital page, search for COVID-19.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) (PDF),

HH-I-466 © 3/16/2020, Revised 5/6/2022 Nationwide Children’s Hospital